Game show hosts who are actually terrible people

Game shows have been around almost as long as TV itself. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the first game show ever was Spelling Bee, which aired all the way back in 1938. On the show, host Freddie Grisewood tasked people with, wait for it, spelling words. Riveting stuff! And it paved the way for the literally thousands of game shows that have existed since then.

There are all kinds of styles and formats of game shows, everything from tests of physical endurance to games of chance to intellectual endeavors. For all the variety of potential games, there is one tried and true constant — the host. The game show host is usually friendly, upbeat and excels at innocuous banter while explaining the rules and bringing the contestant along for the ride. It's worth remembering that the host you see on TV is just a persona, however, a character these people are playing. In real life, some of these game show hosts can be just awful. They are, after all, just like the rest of us, even if they wear terrible suits and tell jokes that are cornier than your dad's. Some of them are awesome people and some are, well, you'll see.

Bob Eubanks has a history of offensive jokes

Way back in 1966, Bob Eubanks started hosting The Newlywed Game. He hosted it off and on for years after that, including stints in the '70s, '80s, '90s, and even the 2000s. The format of the show is pretty simple — a group of newlywed couples are quizzed on how much they know about each other with questions ranging from the mundane to the PG-level risque. It's been an enduring concept for decades and Eubanks was the face of it, playfully digging at the contestants and feigning shock at some of the more saucy answers.

Back in 1989, Eubanks appeared in the Michael Moore documentary Roger and Me, about the downsizing of the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan. Eubanks was interviewed because he's a Flint native, and took the opportunity to randomly toss out a joke that was both homophobic and anti-Semitic. In 2012, while hosting a stage parody of the Newlywed Game, Eubanks again made a homophobic joke on tape, according to The Advocate.

The reputation from these jokes and his history of off-color remarks on The Newlywed Game has dogged him since. Good thing his show isn't still taping, or there would probably be petitions for him to be fired.

Bob Barker has been accused multiple times of harassment

For a long time, you couldn't discuss game shows on TV without bringing up Bob Barker. The unofficial king of daytime game shows, Barker hosted The Price is Right from 1972 to 2007. He'd actually started hosting games way back in 1956, so he had an incredible run of more than half a century. And while he's long been associated with the high energy and good times of The Price Is Right, there was more going on behind the scenes than most of us realized.

The Price Is Right has a history of using models to showcase the fabulous prizes. Known as "Barker's Beauties," they didn't really say much on the show, just there to look pretty. In 1994, model Dian Parkinson filed a lawsuit against Barker alleging sexual harassment. That suit was dropped later when Parkinson said it was taking a toll on her health. However, this suit was followed by more from model Holly Hallstrom and others.

As Time noted, Barker admitted to having a relationship with Parkinson but claimed it was consensual. Hallstrom's suit was settled and, though Barker called it frivolous, a court agreed she had been unfairly fired for gaining weight and for refusing to spread lies about Parkinson in the media. The details of the settlement weren't made public, but it's safe to assume the price was right.

Pat Sajak is a climate change denier

The Wheel of Fortune has been on TV since 1975, back when it was hosted by Chuck Woolery. Woolery left the show in 1981 and from then on it was hosted by Pat Sajak. Sajak, a former weatherman, only left the job briefly to host his own talk show but has otherwise remained at the helm of the show for most of its run.

While his onscreen chemistry with both Vanna White and the contestants is mostly innocuous stuff, off screen things have gotten a little contentious. On Twitter, which allows anyone and everyone to speak without really thinking first, Sajak has loudly and aggressively espoused his disbelief in the science behind climate change. In May 2014, Salon noted that Sajak wrote "I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends." How racism factored into this is anyone's guess.

Sajak later tried to backtrack his comment saying it was just meant as a joke, the "racist" part tossed in to highlight the name-calling directed at those who don't believe in science, but Vice dug into his posting history and noted that he's been denying climate change for quite some time.

Taking the (band)stand

Dick Clark is a pop culture icon and an American original. Clark did a lot of things — he ran a successful production company that gave the world Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve special every New Year's, and he was the host of The $25,000 Pyramid (later The $100,000 Pyramid, to account for inflation). But that long career nearly ended a bit earlier than it needed to.

Clark's big break was as the host and producer of American Bandstand, a pop music showcase that ran from the '50s until the late '80s. It was in that capacity where Dick Clark got up to some shady business dealings … and got caught. In 1960, the House Committee on Legislative Oversight investigated Clark during the "payola" scandal, an especially skeevy moment in the recording industry's history that revealed an elaborate system of illegal and quasi-legal kickbacks and ownership stakes. Findings showed that Clark, who hosted all kinds of up-and-coming acts on American Bandstand, also had a financial stake in many of those artists' record labels — 33 different music companies, in fact. So, when a Bandstand appearance propelled record sales for certain acts, Clark profited. "I think the crime I have committed, if any, is that I made a great deal of money in a short time on little investment," Clark actually told Congress. By the time Clark testified, he had, at the behest of Bandstand's network, ABC, sold off his ownership stakes in those record labels, and so he walked away without punishment.

Chuck Woolery has a long history of controversial comments

Back in the '70s and '80s, Chuck Woolery was the quintessential game show host. He had perfectly coiffed hair, excelled at witty banter, and had a smooth, talk-radio kind of voice that made it seem like he knew what was going on. From a stint as the original host of Wheel of Fortune to his famous run on Love Connection and Scrabble, he really came across as a good and reliable guy.

Fast-forward to the age of social media, and Woolery began sharing his political opinions online. While there's nothing wrong with being conservative, he took things too far with some of his more outlandish and aggressive beliefs. As Huffington Post detailed, on a radio show once with former Representative Michelle Bachmann, Woolery explained his belief that minorities don't need civil rights. The idea of gay rights or civil rights are unnecessary, Woolery believes, because all people have inalienable rights. He went on to say everyone gets discriminated against and he knows what it's like too because he's old.

Woolery's comments on Twitter have garnered him accusations of anti-Semitism and prejudice against Islam as well. Woolery has defended himself against claims of racism and even claimed ignorance on any knowledge of past racism in politics, inviting many people to set him straight according to Huffington Post.

Steve Harvey has a history of sexism and intolerance

Family Feud seems to have really taken off in popularity under the hosting of Steve Harvey. With Harvey at the helm the show has even had a number of primetime celebrity specials including big name stars like Shaquille O'Neal and Kanye West. But as charming and fun as Steve Harvey can be on camera, he's no stranger to controversy behind the scenes.

A staff email Harvey sent to the crew of his daytime talk show was leaked to the press, and it demonstrated the level of control Harvey expects to have over his employees. Variety reprinted the message, and it includes instructions like "do not come to my dressing room unless invited" and "my security team will stop everyone from standing at my door who have the intent to see me or speak to me." In total, about a dozen points all essentially make the same point — do not go near Steve Harvey unless you have permission ahead of time.

The Hollywood Reporter points out how Harvey joked on his show about how women would never want to date Asian men. Other highlights of Harvey's least respectable views range from blatant sexism to homophobia. Survey says: Steve Harvey isn't as nice as he plays on TV.

Richard Dawson was a tyrant on the Family Feud

Few game show hosts are as memorable as the Family Feud's Richard Dawson if for no other reason than Dawson would occasionally make fun of contestants, which is still a staple on Family Feud over 40 years later. He even once acknowledged himself as "smarmy" in a People interview. Dawson also had a penchant for locking lips with almost every single woman who appeared on the show. Not in a face-eating way necessarily, but the man made it his mission to kiss every woman he could, which likely wouldn't fly these days. But despite all that, Dawson was charming and funny and he seemed like a likeable enough guy. But that was on camera.

Behind the scenes, rumors of Dawson's behavior were a little less than complimentary. In the book Television Game Show Hosts, author David Baber details how Dawson's ego began to grow as the show blew up. He would clash with producers over whether contestant answers qualified, and he'd tell long stories that ate up screen time and jokes that needed to be edited out. He'd get angry when lightbulbs were burned out. At one point he even forbade a show producer from coming on set and hired his own daughter-in-law to fill the role. In a number of ways, he became the parody of a game show host he ended up playing in the movie The Running Man.

Sometimes the weakest link is yourself

For a hot minute in 2001, the game show Weakest Link was the hottest thing on American television. Part of the charm was host Anne Robinson, the antithesis of the usual friendly game show host in that she was a stern, stone-faced British person who mocked failed contestants and dismissed them with a curt, "You are the Weakest Link, goodbye!" At the end of the show, Robinson bid farewell to viewers with a wry smile, implying the whole mean thing was just an act. 

But maybe it wasn't. In October 2017, Robinson weighed in on the then-young #MeToo movement, which aims to call out and eradicate sexual harassment and other awful behavior, particularly in the workplace. Back in her day, four decades ago, they "had a much more robust attitude to men behaving badly," she told BBC Radio 4. "In my day we gave them a slap and told them to grow up." She also called out "the fragility of the women who are unable to deal with the treachery of the workplace." In June 2018, she doubled down on her comments, saying she "certainly didn't run crying to the loo" if a man "tried to pat my bum," according to the Independent. She added: "I was also really shocked that women further up the pole weren't doing more to curtail it." So yeah, Robinson thinks its women's fault that women get harassed (or worse). That's, as they say, problematic.

Fill in the blanks with Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin does a lot of things. The former big-screen heartthrob won a bunch of Emmys as a comedy star, both for his work as NBC executive Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock and as President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. More recently, he's served as the genial host of ABC's fun primetime revival of Match Game. Off-camera, Baldwin is something of a hothead. In 2013, he ran after a photographer trying to take his picture and levied a profane, homosexual slur. In April 2014, Baldwin got in a fight with an ex-aide to Mitt Romney, which ended in some more anti-gay language.

Baldwin doesn't even save his vitriol for strangers. In 2007, a voicemail Baldwin left for his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, leaked to the media. Apparently, she missed a scheduled phone call from dear old dad, and he came unglued. "I don't give a damn that you're 12 years old or 11 years old, or a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the a** who doesn't care about what you do," he raged, referring to his former wife, Kim Basinger. He topped it off by calling his flesh and blood a "thoughtless little pig." The message was so nasty that a family law judge issued an order that temporarily prevented Baldwin from contacting his daughter.

Ben Stein has some pretty outlandish beliefs

Most people know Ben Stein from one of two places — Ferris Bueller's Day Off or as the game show host of Win Ben Stein's Money. Stein has actually been in law and politics for years, however, and was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. That said, Stein is also known for having some pretty questionable ideas.

Stein made a movie called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that was critical of evolution. And that's fine, but as the USA Today review notes, the movie portrays anyone who supports evolution as un-American … and links evolution to eugenics and the Nazi party. The Anti-Defamation League actually released a statement denouncing the film for its misappropriation of the Holocaust.

Stein once wrote a defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French politician and former manager of the International Monetary Fund. Strauss-Kahn has been accused of numerous sexual assaults over the years and, though never found guilty, he has settled at least one civil suit against an accuser out of court. Rather than dealing in facts, Stein's defense rested on the idea that Strauss-Kahn was either too important to sexually assault someone, or that it's just not a thing people like him do. Yes, if we've learned anything in our modern era, it's that rich men are terrified of abusing their power over women.

What is ... prickly?

Jeopardy! is one of the longest-lasting TV game shows ever, and it's certainly one of the hardest — contestants have to know all kinds of trivia deep cuts on a wide variety of subjects and answer quickly as they're bombarded with two lightning rounds of clues. The only respite they get is when host Alex Trebek walks over to "get to know" the contestants. Trebek frequently teases players about their life stories and interests, and he can be a bit harsh.

On an October 2016 episode, for example, a contestant named Susan explained her interest in nerdcore hip-hop, describing it as "people who identify as nerdy rapping about the things they love — video games, science fiction, having a hard time meeting romantic partners." Trebek's retort: "Losers, in other words." He told a woman named Amanda that her love of taking "polar bear plunges" was the provenance of the "young and dumb." Sometimes Trebek will rib players during the actual game, too, telling a guy named Donnie who blanked out on a question, "You're fast on the button, but your brain's not catching up!"

He has also been criticized for mispronouncing some important foreign words. Now, the show covers a lot of ground, so it's understandable that some words would be unfamiliar to him, but he usually puts so much effort into correctly, painstakingly pronouncing foreign words that it really shows when he hasn't bothered to do his homework.

Gene Rayburn made a habit of being sexist on Match Game

If you like Family Feud at all, you have Match Game to thank for it. Match Game is where Richard Dawson got his start in game shows before going on to host Feud, and it's also the inspiration for the whole show. Basically, Family Feud was an adapted version of Match Game's final round, even though the rest of the game format was very different. On that show, a contestant has to match fill-in-the-blank answers with a celebrity from a panel of guests, all under the helpful guidance of host Gene Rayburn.

Match Game was very much a product of the 1970s and looking back on it years later can induce some serious cringe. Host Gene Rayburn routinely engaged in banter that, by today's standards, would qualify as racist, sexist, or just generally offensive. Clips show Rayburn acting like what could be at best described as a dirty old man. In one clip he seems to actually grope panelist Elaine Joyce then laugh it off when she calls him out on it. In a different clip he makes Joyce stand up to show off her outfit. Another time he dropped two jokes in a row about Fannie Flag's breasts. In addition to the writing on the show constantly playing on innuendo, Rayburn was definitely into making things uncomfortable for some members of the audience.

Fergie Olver really, really liked kissing little girls

Way up north during the 1980s, Canada was airing its own string of exceptionally '80s game shows that suffered from a lot of the terrible wardrobes and bad haircuts you'd expect from '80s TV. One of those shows was called Just Like Mom and featured children as the contestants along with their mothers. The pairs had to match questions and then mom had to eat some gross "bake-off" items to guess which one their own kid made. They also had to deal with host Fergie Olver.

In years after the show aired, clips began to circulate on YouTube that really showcased how off-putting Olver was as a host. In particular, he had a habit of very frequently kissing the little girls on the show. Often he would ask for a kiss and regardless of whether the girl agreed, he'd proceed to give one. Most of these girls are between 6 and 12 years old, and most very clearly don't want to be touched by Olver as they literally recoil from him. But he kept doing it.

Maclean's magazine in Canada discussed the issue, pointing out that audiences likely never noticed how weird it was at the time, but when it's run all together it's exceptionally uncomfortable to watch.